“Where there is growth, opportunity and innovation will follow.” Of course the opposite can also be said, “Where there is valued added innovation, growth will follow.” We don’t have to look further than the tremendous expansion we’ve witnessed with stand-up pouches to know that these statements are true.

According to Mintel, stand-up pouches are growing by 6 percent globally in the food and beverage, and beauty and home industries, with food representing the largest share and growth. As a reference, rigid packaging’s growth is less than 4 percent, with Mintel forecasting glass and metal production actually declining. What are some of the reasons behind this growth?

Innovations Mean Growth

Developments in film technology have been one of the key drivers behind the growth in flexibles. Safer, longer shelf life and better tasting foods are now synonymous with flexible packaging for many food categories. Innovation in film structures that stand up to extreme food processes, like aseptic and retort, are also leading to faster conversions from rigid to stand-up pouch formats. New stylish and functional pouch shapes with high impact graphics are attracting consumers to use this package format.

In addition to the developments in film technology, substantial improvements have also been realized in the pouch packaging equipment side. Marketers and contract fillers are better able to realize higher speeds and output via multi-up formats and continuous motion filling innovations. Depending upon operational drivers (speeds, capital, etc.), solutions in flexible packaging (form/fill/seal or fill and seal) have become more and more attractive and obtainable for marketers/contract fillers – all while providing sophisticated on-line diagnostics, data acquisition and operator convenience.

Pouches are becoming more than just an inexpensive and sustainable alternative to rigid packaging. A great example of stand-up pouches satisfying key consumer trends and providing value is the explosive growth in the baby food (purée) single serve pouch category. This easy to store and carry, unbreakable (no tools required) package solution perfectly supports our nation’s on-the-go, busy lifestyle. The easy-to-grip format allows toddlers to “do it myself,” conveniently and safely. And most importantly, there is little to no mess to clean up.

Providing value and satisfying key consumer trends is going to be what sets successful flexible packaging launches from the rest of the pack. The difference between a successful stand-up pouch launch and a less successful implementation will be the ability to satisfy the key consumer need/trend while adding value that speaks to the specific application, e.g., convenience and portability for baby/toddler purée.

Bringing Closure to the Pouch Solution

A key component to the future popularity and consumer acceptance of stand-up pouches will be the continued evolution of spout fitments and closures. No doubt, pouches alone have a tremendous shelf appeal and are gaining consumer acceptance in terms of convenience and sustainability. Evolution in spout fitments have enabled consumers to improve directionality, cleanliness and even resealability. Market research firm Euromonitor International puts the growth of spouted stand-up pouches at over 16 percent – a great testament to innovation and value breeding growth. However, there is still a lot of room to improve and enhance the consumer’s experience with flexible packaging.

For years, consumers struggled to pour and evacuate viscous products such as ketchup or mayonnaise. In 1999, a revolution in convenience and functionality was realized thanks to the adoption of a silicone valve (known as SimpliSqueeze) in the orifice of the closure. This introduction has revolutionized the way consumers interact with condiments and other squeezable products. For years, Heinz’s ketchup has used SimpliSqueeze in the vast majority of its ketchup packages. Valve technology provides a no-mess, superior product cutoff, leak-proof solution. Convenience and clean dispensing equals value.

Simply Technology

For the last 13 years, consumers have become more and more accustomed to the convenience and functionality realized via the SimpliSqueeze valve technology. Today, we see these valves incorporated into packaging solutions for ketchup, mayo, salad dressings, spreads, dessert toppings, dairy, beverages, and more.

Recently, Kraft Foods leveraged the benefits of the SimpliSqueeze valve by incorporating it into Mio, a new revolutionary liquid beverage concentrate. This game changing format capitalizes on the best in small, portable, attractive packaging with the valve and allows consumers to actually personalize their beverage experience. With an integrated flexible valve in the closure, the consumer is able to squeeze and dose a controlled, clean and personalized amount of flavoring into water. Clean dispensing and product cut off, along with personalization, has enabled Kraft to heighten the bar in terms of consumer value and appeal.

With its barrier properties and no leak features, the new fitment has helped to revolutionize the many inverted and non-inverted packages consumers purchase in grocery stores today.

Getting Technical

SimpliSqueeze technology is a total package solution made up of a valve, fitment and pouch that together, can be adapted based upon a thorough understanding of the consumer’s product, environment, package type and dispensing behavior. Like an engine, the pouch assists the valve to propel product out of the spout or fitment. By tailoring the performance of the valved spout and pouch, the consumer’s expectations in terms of cleanliness, squeeze force and restitution rates are met.

Valves often have several types configuration to suit the needs of the product and how much you need dispensed. The valves can have different slit configurations, diameters and shapes. Having the right valve characteristics will optimize:

•  Volume of product dispensed
•  Ease of squeeze vs. non-drip dispense
•  Gentle vs. snappy dispense
•  Precise, narrow product stream or bold controlled delivery

Smaller valves are especially suited for dispensing thinner viscosity products like water while larger valves are more suitable for dispensing thicker viscosity products like honey.

Generally speaking, a larger slit will dispense more product with less force applied to the pouch. Smaller slits are ideal for blending/mixing applications due to the higher velocity of the product stream, e.g., Kraft Mio.

The SimpliSqueeze valve is made of special silicone material that, compared to other materials, is resistant to extreme temperature ranges and able to tolerate all food processes, including retort. Silicone also has incredible memory and will not change its shape over time or usage, maintaining great re-seal characteristics and preventing any leakage.

Stand-up pouches will continue to show strong growth in the food and beverage category, providing an extension and complement to existing brands using rigid packaging, and in many cases, replacing them.

Market growth for flexibles will attract current and new suppliers to innovate. And brands that can successfully identify key trends and meet consumers’ packaging expectations by applying flexible innovation will be rewarded by providing a solid solution.

Aptargroup, Food + Beverage
(262) 363-0362;www.Aptar.com